Reading is hardly a passive experience with this intriguing story collection.
December 7, 2008
"Correspondences" by Ben Greenman (Hotel St. George Press: $50, 250-copy limited edition) is a beautiful, letterpressed, book-like object containing seven short stories that literally unfold before you. The case is earth-colored cardboard with a wine-red sleeve, almost like a box of stationery. The first story, "What He Was Poised to Do," is revealed as you open the case; the text includes numbers corresponding to postcards the characters write to one another. You might expect to find those postcards inside; instead there is a blank one there, inviting you to fill in one of those from the story. This is a challenge, because Greenman's writing is wonderfully intimidating, bountiful yet compressed; one willing lover is "like a penny rolling across the floor." Maybe you ought to read the other stories first? Each story involves letters -- to lovers, friends, a daughter -- but few correspondents hope to receive anything in return. Yet one story is set on the impossible border of India and Australia and focuses on a karmic boomerang business (talk about karmic return). The enclosed stories are printed on opposite sides of accordion-style inserts -- "Hope," for example, is a story that is paired with another that has little, a reminder that correspondence is a kind of relationship, connection. "Correspondences" is a gorgeous collection of short stories, integrated in its content and construction, yet unfinished; it waits for your postcard to arrive.